I like to consider myself a true and patriotic American, but I have a confession to make: I hate baseball. Yes, I know it’s the quintessential American sport, right up there in Americana with Mom and apple pie. But I still hate it. I find it boring and surprisingly non-athletic. It’s such a static game. The guys run bases periodically, but mostly they just stand around. Oh, and they hit balls. And of course, they spit.
I’ll concede that the ball hitting part is a real skill. With a surprisingly small stick, baseball players manage to whack away with great precision at a small, incredibly fast moving ball. That’s impressive . . . but still boring. Kind of like darts, which is fun to play (especially if you’re a little beer lubricated, but really not that exciting to watch).
Here’s something I learned from Barry Bonds, though: the bigger your muscles, the harder you can hit that little ball, and the further and faster that ball then travels. That fast and far travel means either that (a) the ball goes right out of the park or (b) nobody can catch it within the park.
Bonds’ problem when he began his baseball career was that he wasn’t born with those muscles. He had to create them artificially. Enter steroids. With steroids on his side, and a strong natural and honed talent for hitting balls with frequency and precision, Bonds became a bulging behemoth who could effortlessly hit balls further and faster than anyone else.
Forget about all the icky little side effects that come with steroids, such as shrunken testicles, damaged joints, pustule covered skin, and surging anger, not to mention the whole law-breaking thing. Bonds was hitting the big time, becoming a baseball hero and one of the most famous men in the world.
When the Bonds story first broke, I asked myself one question: Why shouldn’t players in a commercial enterprise be allowed to do anything they want to become the best? After all, the downsides of steroids are centered on the individual himself. The individual is the one who makes the Faustian bargain: In exchange for destroying his health, he has a brief moment as a superb baseball player. Isn’t that a private bargain, that isn’t anyone else’s business?
In fact, though, it is also other people’s business, since it affects the other baseball players. Those players who take steroids distort the market. The up and coming player no longer needs to have only innate talent and an enormous work ethic. Instead, to compete in this distorted market, he too needs to be willing to destroy himself.
One could argue that the market place will adjust: ultimately, America would end up with two leagues, one filled with weird, steroid bulging, slow-moving hard hitters, and one filled with “all natural” players, lithe and quick. Those who wish to poison themselves can, those who don’t want to won’t.
The specter of grotesqueries, however, not to mention the fear of legions of young men hitting the steroids to going into the steroid league (and that’s just what we need — teenagers on steroids), meant that we, as a society, decided that we didn’t want to go down that road. Instead, the Major League Baseball machine, law enforcement, and public opinion all agitated against the distortion of the current baseball market that Bonds and his ilk represented.
Right now, I imagine many of you saying, “Fine, you’ve insulted baseball left, right and center. You also maundered on about steroids and the free market. But what does this have to do with health care?” My answer: “This whole baseball riff is a perfect illustration of the problem with government interference in the health care market.”
In the context of health care, government money is the functional equivalent of steroids. The huge, bumbling, slow moving, inefficient, corruption-prone government behemoth places huge chunks of money into the market and, just as Barry Bonds’ distorted normal baseball, so too does Medicare (and Medicaid and ObamaCare) distort the normal market. I’ll let the Center for Freedom and Prosperity Foundation explain:
I think the video is remarkably clear but, if it’s not, just think of the way in which Barry Bonds, by tossing steroids into the baseball mix, perverted and potentially destroyed baseball. The same holds true for a system that has clunky government rules, combined with third party money that diminishes anyone’s interest in honesty and efficiency.